Perhaps the most intriguing local pick in this week's Major League Baseball draft is Shaq Thompson.
Thompson, the Bee's 2011 football Player of the Year from Grant High School, returned to baseball this spring to play alongside friends, but the 6-foot-2, 225-pound recent graduate said he had no idea where he might get drafted if at all.
An outfielder known for his speed and arm, Thompson was selected in the 18th round by Boston. Thompson said he will sign with the Red Sox but added that he still plans to play football at Washington, where he signed a national letter of intent in February.
"I'm definitely going to Washington, but I'll report to baseball first to see how I do," Thompson said. "I think this is great. I'm surprised. I thought I might get drafted, but much later."
As much of a natural as Thompson is in football he glides as a tailback and is a punishing hitter as a safety baseball was a challenge this spring.
Thompson didn't play the sport as a junior and played little as a sophomore (he competed in track and field, twice reaching the CIF State Track and Field Championships as a sprinter). Thompson batted .305 and had 18 hits and 17 strikeouts. Despite the strikeouts, scouts told Thompson and his coaches that they like his potential.
"So many strike out and they throw their bat or their batting glove, or have a sour face, but not Shaq," Grant coach Danny Chavez said. "He would jog off the field like a real leader, with no emotion. Not that he didn't care. He hates to fail, but he didn't crack. He didn't let anyone see that he was bothered."
How good can Thompson be in baseball?
"I just know the kid has a phenomenal arm and all the speed in the world, and can track any ball down," Chavez said. "He has that great athletic ability and great mental approach. And he's such a quality young man, so why not take a chance on putting him in your organization? This game is all about potential, and he's got amazing potential."
Said Thompson: "I'm just glad I played baseball again because I realized how fun it is, how much I missed it. I know it's a game of failure and it is a hard game to adjust to. I'm looking forward to meeting new people in baseball, then it'll be football."
Sacramento-area players selected in the Major League Baseball draft
(listed with area high school and/or college):
P Martin Agosta: Jesuit and St. Mary's, Giants, second round
SS Zach Green: Jesuit, Phillies, third round
P Justin Haley: Bella Vista and Sierra, Red Sox, sixth round
P Ben Eckels: Davis, Diamondbacks, 11th round
P Dylan Chavez: Pleasant Grove and American River, Red Sox, 14th round
OF Cody Keefer: Davis, Marlins, 15th round
OF Shaq Thompson: Grant, Red Sox, 18th round
P R.J. Davis: Florin, Sacramento City and Sacramento State, Rays, 20th round.
C Mike Turay: Davis and Stanislaus State, Brewers, 24th round
P Josh Pigg: Franklin, Indians, 28th round
P Dayne Quist: UC Davis, Rays, 28th round
C Toby DeMello: Roseville, Mariners, 29th round
C Derrick Chung: Sacramento State, Blue Jays, 31st round
P Justin Dillon: El Dorado, Rockies, 39th round
C Scott Kalush: UC Davis, Orioles, 39th round
1B Dalton Blaser: Roseville, A's, 39th round
OF Pat Stover: Rocklin, Dodgers, 40th round